PHOENIX -- Brewers backup catcher Martin Maldonado needed a smaller jersey when he reported for the start of an important Spring Training.
At the behest of club officials, Maldonado dropped 26 pounds over a busy winter by eating better and playing a lot of baseball. His Indios de Mayaguez team won the Puerto Rican Winter League, then advanced all the way to the Caribbean Series final before falling to champion Mexico.
After only four days off, a noticeably trim Maldonado reported for duty at Maryvale Baseball Park.
"Not that I was overweight last year, but I wanted to come into camp ready," Maldonado said. "I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life since I signed."
Maldonado is one of the Brewers backups expected to get extensive playing time in the Cactus League in an effort to compensate for sporadic at-bats in the regular season. Last year, Maldonado essentially sat out much of Spring Training because he backed up star Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina in the World Baseball Classic.
The time off set Maldonado back. Catching right-hander Wily Peralta every fifth day, Maldonado batted .169 in 67 games.
"I think it's important for the extra guys … they need more at-bats than the starters do," manager Ron Roenicke said. "They've got to feel really good about their offense, because when they get into [the season], it's one at-bat here or there. For Maldy, whether we catch him once a week or every five days like we did last year, it's hard to stay consistent."
Roenicke noticed Maldonado's offseason conditioning, saying, "He looks great."
Maldonado had help from his wife, Janelise, who he says is an excellent cook.